As of right now I have nearly 11,000 words of backstory written for Toriko Tales. This compares to the 12,175 words currently written in the book manuscript.
That doesn’t even factor in the original module I wrote for Toriko’s original introduction for D’mok Revival first book. In fact, much of what I wrote back then I’m updating for use in her first solo book.
It may seem excessive, but to me, I want to understand the bigger picture before attempting to add something into the main manuscript. I feel if I understand the history around locations or events, or the motivating factors and experiences of a character I’ll be able to represent them more authentically and consistently in my main story.
To do this I simply write some short stories.
If it’s about a character I conduct a little interview. I’ve never had a situation where I couldn’t “hear” their response. In fact, it’s fun to ask follow-up questions. I’m always surprised by the answers (despite it all coming from my own mind.).
If it’s about a location, before trying to visualize the place, I ask myself lots of questions about the area it’s in. What is it’s function? How does it fit into the bigger scheme of the area or society? When was it built and how old is it? Is this place important or forgotten? How is the space used now?
Then, based on all of that, I begin visualizing. Again, starting with the surroundings and moving to the location of interest. What type of architecture is used in that area? What type of materials? The short could be a totally different set of characters that are just interacting with the space, or a discussion from the architects themselves on the approach used to craft the location.
The type of short story used all depends on what I want to understand about the subject.
For the character of Mini-T (v2) I did a number of shorts. One was a stream-of-consciousness understanding her mindset in a particular moment. Another was a set of “diary entries” (requested by Toriko) to help show the progression of her development. Another was a semi-structured interview at a later point in time (towards the end of where I expect the Toriko Tales manuscript to go). It did wonders for understand that characters arc for this book.
I highly recommend doing something like this. I believe it prevents a lot of the inconsistency problems with commercial IPs where characters don’t act consistently. I don’t know about you, but it bothers me when a character does something totally contrary to what we’ve learned about them to that point, unless it’s some shocking reveal of a totally other side we had no idea about. Then it’s okay, otherwise it’s not. So, I work very hard to maintain consistency in my stories.